CONCERTS
FEATURED ARTIST
Jon Kimura parker Jon Kimura Parker
IRIS Orchestra
Michael Stern, conductor
Featuring: Jon Kimura Parker, piano

Date: Saturday, October 17, 2015 at 8:00pm

Sunday, October 18, 2015 at 2:00pm
Location: GPAC (Directions)

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Few composers in history can rival the youthful genius of the young Felix Mendelssohn. The prolific output of his young teens laid the groundwork for the masterful Overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream, an astonishing tour de force of evocative orchestral imagery. Robert Schumann's first orchestral composition, his "Spring" Symphony No. 1, was revolutionary. Capping off the program, we welcome back our old friend, the brilliant pianist Jon Kimura Parker, in Rachmaninov's romantic Piano Concerto No. 2.

 

PROGRAM
Mendelssohn Overture to A Midsummer Night's DreamAbout this Music

Composed in 1826. Premiered on February 20, 1827 in Stettin, conducted by Carl Loewe.

Berlin in the 1820s was a populous, densely packed city with few open spaces, "a city without lungs," wrote the art historian Karl Scheffler. Abraham Mendelssohn, father of Felix and a wealthy banker, was one of those who could afford to live beyond the city gates, where the open country made life more pleasant. The Mendelssohn home was a mansion, a small palace really, set on ten verdant acres. The residence boasted a hall for theatrical productions, while the garden house was arranged so that its large interior could be used for concerts with an audience of several hundred. There were, in fact, regular Sunday afternoon musicales in the Mendelssohn household, with Felix and his older sister, Fanny, being regular participants. (It was for these events that Mendelssohn composed and — a luxury rare among composers — heard his early music performed immediately, including the dozen lovely Symphonies for Strings.) Also on the grounds was a beautiful garden, a magical place for young Felix, where the warm days of summer were spent reading and dreaming. In later years, he told his friend the English composer William Sterndale Bennett about an evening in July 1826, "It was in that garden one night that I encountered Shakespeare."

Felix and Fanny were enamored in those years of reading the works of Shakespeare, who, next to the arch-Romantic Jean-Paul, was their favorite writer. Shakespeare's plays had been appearing in excellent German translations by Ludwig Tieck and August Schlegel (father Abraham's brother-in-law) since the turn of the century, and the young Mendelssohns particularly enjoyed the wondrous fantasy world of A Midsummer Night's Dream. The play inspired the already accomplished budding composer, and plans began to stir in his imagination. Early in July, he wrote in a letter, "I have grown accustomed to composing in our garden. Today or tomorrow I am going to dream there [the music to accompany] A Midsummer's Night's Dream. This is, however, an enormous audacity...." Within a few days, however, he had embarked on his "audacity," and was writing an overture to the play. By August 6th, the work was done. On November 19th, Felix and Fanny played the original piano duet version of the score on one of their Sunday musicales, and a private orchestral performance followed before the end of the year. In February, the work was first played publicly in Stettin. It immediately garnered a success that has never waned.

By 1842, Mendelssohn was the most famous musician in Europe and in demand everywhere. He was director of the superb Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig, a regular visitor to England, and Kapellmeister to King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia in Berlin. For Mendelssohn's Berlin duties, Friedrich required incidental music for several new productions at the Royal Theater, including Sophocles' Oedipus and Antigone, Racine's Athalie and Shakespeare's The Tempest and A Midsummer Night's Dream. This last would, of course, include the celebrated Overture Mendelssohn had written when he was seventeen, exactly half his age in 1842. He composed the twelve additional numbers of the incidental music the following spring, creating a perfect match for the inspiration and style of the Overture. The premiere of the new production in November was an enormous triumph.

Franz Liszt wrote of the Midsummer Night's Dream music, "Mendelssohn had a real capacity for depicting these enchanted elves, for interpolating in their caressing, chirping song the bray of the donkey without rubbing us the wrong way.... No musician was so equipped to translate into music the delicate yet, in certain externals, embarrassing sentimentality of the lovers; ... no one could paint as he did the rainbow dust, the mother-of-pearl shimmering of these sprites, could capture the brilliant ascent of a royal wedding feast." The Overture may well be the greatest piece of orchestral music ever composed by one so young, including Mozart and Schubert. Woven into its sonata form are thematic representations of the woodland sprites, the shimmering light through forest leaves, the sweet sighs of the lovers, even the "ee-ah" braying of that memorable Rustic, Bottom, when he is turned into an ass. In matters of formal construction, orchestral color and artistic polish, this Overture is, quite simply, a masterpiece.

Schumann Symphony No. 1 in B-flat majorAbout this Music

Composed in 1840-1841. Premiered on March 31, 1841 in Leipzig, conducted by Felix Mendelssohn.

September 12, 1840 — the day he married Clara Wieck — was a watershed in Robert Schumann's creative life. For years he and Clara had struggled to bring about their marriage against the will of her father, even taking him to court, before they could be united. The joy of their victory and the anticipation of their long-delayed life together inspired Schumann to explore whole new worlds of expression. For the decade before 1839, he had limited himself entirely to works for solo piano, though both he and Clara pined for grander things. "Sometimes I would like to smash my piano, it has become too narrow for my thoughts," wrote Robert on April 14th to Heinrich Dorn, his composition teacher. At about the same time, Clara told her diary, "It would be best if he composed for orchestra; his imagination cannot find sufficient scope on the piano." His first important move away from the confines of the keyboard came during the year of his marriage, when he composed nearly 150 songs, including the splendid cycles Dichterliebe, Frauenlieben und Leben and Liederkreis. It was in December, the month that Clara first became pregnant, that Robert's spirit and imagination were finally inspired to undertake a symphony, born, according to its composer, "in a fiery hour."

In a fit of inspiration, Schumann began sketching his First Symphony in December 1840. (An attempt at a G minor Symphony in 1832 was abandoned after two movements and later disowned.) Its genesis may be followed in the entries Clara and Robert made in the joint diary they kept during the early years of their marriage. Clara, January 14, 1841: "It is not my turn to keep the diary this week, but when a husband is composing a symphony, he must be excused from all other things." Clara, January 24th: "The symphony is nearly finished, and though I have not yet heard any of it, I am infinitely delighted that Robert has at last found the sphere for which his great imagination fits him." Clara, January 25th: "Today, Monday, Robert has about finished his Symphony; it has been composed mostly at night.... He calls it 'Spring' Symphony.... A spring poem by [Adolph] Böttger gave the first impulse to this creation." When the short score was finished the next day, Robert wrote, "Within the last few days I have completed, at least in outline, a labor which has kept me in a state of bliss, but also exhausted me. Think of it! A whole symphony — and more a Spring Symphony! I can myself scarcely believe it is finished." Robert, on February 20th, the day the orchestration was completed: "The Symphony has given me many happy hours. But now, after sleepless nights, comes exhaustion. I am like a young wife after a birth — so light, so happy, yet so sick and sore. My Clara understands this, and treats me with double consideration — a kindness I will repay. But I would never come to the end, if I were to tell all that Clara has shown me during this time. I might have sought through millions without finding anyone who would treat me with such thoughtfulness and understanding." Clara added, "We enjoy such happiness as I have never before known. My father always made fun of so-called domestic bliss. How I pity those who do not know it! They are only half alive!" Robert found continuing orchestral inspiration in his new wife's love — from 1841 also date the original versions of D minor Symphony (presented to Clara on her birthday in September) and the Piano Concerto, as well as the Overture, Scherzo and Finale.

The B-flat Symphony was immediately put into rehearsal at the Leipzig Gewandhaus by its music director and Schumann's friend, Felix Mendelssohn, who seems to have offered his orchestrally inexperienced colleague some assistance with the intricate art of instrumentation. (Schumann also undertook a cursory study of the violin with Christoph Hilf at this time to broaden his knowledge of orchestral instruments.) The premiere was given on March 31, 1841 as part of a concert featuring Clara, one of the greatest pianists of the century, playing music by Mendelssohn, Chopin, Domenico Scarlatti, Thalberg and her husband. (Clara devoted much of her life, before and after the death of Robert in 1856, to the promulgation of his music. His reputation rests in no small part on her proselytizing.) So warmly was the new Symphony received that its composer boasted to a friend that it enjoyed a success "as no other had since Beethoven!"

Schumann seems to have taken the emotional milieu of the "Spring" Symphony from a largely rather glum poem by his friend Adolph Böttger (1815-1870) about the "Spirit of the Clouds, murky and heavy, flying with menace over land and sea." It was the poem's closing lines, however, that sparked Schumann's imagination: "O turn, turn thy course, In the valley blooms the spring!" In October 1842 he sent a portrait of himself, painted by Kriehuber, to Böttger inscribed with the work's opening measures and the words, "Beginning of a Symphony inspired by a poem of Adolph Böttger. To the poet, in remembrance of Robert Schumann." Though Schumann at first appended titles to each of the movements ("Spring's Beginning," "Evening," "Joyful Playing" and "Full" or, perhaps, "End of Springtime" — "Voller Frühling"), he soon dropped those sobriquets. In a letter to the then-eminent and now largely forgotten composer-conductor-violinist Ludwig Spohr on November 23, 1842, he noted, "I wrote the Symphony toward the end of the winter of 1841, and, if I may say so, in the vernal passion that sways men until they are very old, and surprises them again with each year. I do not wish to portray or to paint; but I believe firmly that the period [i.e., winter's end] in which the Symphony was produced influenced its form and character, and shaped it as it is." The distinguished music critic Mosco Carner added, "It is the intrusion of poetic ideas that gives Schumann's symphonic music its special place.... He opened to the symphony a world of Romantic imagery and lyricism which was at once new and personal."

In his book on Schumann as Critic, Leon Plantinga noted that the trumpet and horn summons which opens the work's slow introduction was probably influenced by the initial gesture of Schubert's magnificent C major Symphony ("The Great"), a score that Schumann had unearthed, brought to performance and pronounced "heavenly." Schumann originally wrote this motive a third lower, but discovered at the first rehearsal that the Gewandhaus brasses, which were not yet playing on the recently invented valved instruments, could produce two of the required notes only by stopping the bells with their hands, creating a muffled tone whose sound the composer compared to "a violent head cold" and which was woefully inappropriate for the desired stentorian effect. The transposition allows the notes to be played open and brilliantly, but it postpones immediate certainty about the music's tonality (though so does the opening motive of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, for that matter). There follows a vivacious exposition (with repeat) of the movement's thematic materials, including a main theme, derived from the melody of the introduction, and a wistful subsidiary phrase for woodwinds. A development, far more lovable than its four-squareness would seem to allow, ensues. After some grand chords spread through the full orchestra and a momentary silence, the recapitulation returns the themes of the exposition. An animated coda brings this lovely movement to a close.

The Larghetto, lyrical, long-limbed, rich in harmony, warm in sonority and impassioned in expression, is perhaps Schumann's most Romantic orchestral essay. The burnished sound of trombones leads directly to the Scherzo (with two trios), whose lusty theme is a transformation of that of the preceding movement. A joyous sonata-form finale, infused with a dancing, youthful joie de vivre, rounds out this beautiful Symphony.

Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minorAbout this Music

Composed in 1900-1901. Premiered on October 14, 1901 in Moscow, conducted by Alexander Siloti with the composer as soloist.

When he was old and as mellow as he would ever get, Rachmaninoff wrote these words about his early years: "Although I had to fight for recognition, as most younger men must, although I have experienced all the troubles and sorrow which precede success, and although I know how important it is for an artist to be spared such troubles, I realize, when I look back on my early life, that it was enjoyable, in spite of all its vexations and bitterness." The greatest "bitterness" of Rachmaninoff's career was brought about by his Symphony No. 1, a work that had such a disastrous premiere he forbade any other performances of the piece while he was alive. The total failure of the Symphony at its premiere in 1897 was a traumatic disappointment to him, one that thrust him into such a mental depression that he suffered a complete nervous collapse.

An aunt of Rachmaninoff, Varvara Satina, had recently been successfully treated for an emotional disturbance by a certain Dr. Nicholas Dahl, a Moscow physician who was familiar with the latest psychiatric discoveries in France and Vienna, and it was arranged that Rachmaninoff should visit him. Years later, in his memoirs, the composer recalled the malady and the treatment: "[Following the performance of the First Symphony,] something within me snapped. All my self-confidence broke down. A paralyzing apathy possessed me. I did nothing at all and found no pleasure in anything. Half my days were spent on a couch sighing over my ruined life. My only occupation consisted in giving a few piano lessons to keep myself alive." For more than a year, Rachmaninoff's condition persisted. He began his daily visits to Dr. Dahl in January 1900. "My relatives had informed Dr. Dahl that he must by all means cure me of my apathetic condition and bring about such results that I would again be able to compose. Dahl had inquired what kind of composition was desired of me, and he was informed 'a concerto for pianoforte,' which I had given up in despair of ever writing. In consequence, I heard repeated, day after day, the same hypnotic formula, as I lay half somnolent in an armchair in Dr. Dahl's consulting room: 'You will start to compose a concerto — You will work with the greatest of ease — The composition will be of excellent quality.' Always it was the same, without interruption." Almost like a movie script from the Hollywood where Rachmaninoff eventually settled, the good doctor's unusual cure worked. "Although it may seem impossible to believe," Rachmaninoff continued, "this treatment really helped me. I started to compose again at the beginning of the summer." In gratitude, he dedicated the new Concerto in C minor to Dr. Dahl.

Rachmaninoff wrote the second and third movements of his rehabilitative Concerto in the summer and early autumn of 1900 in Italy, Novgorod and Moscow; this incomplete version was heard at a charity concert in Moscow on October 14th, with the composer at the keyboard and Alexander Siloti conducting. The opening movement was composed by the following spring, and the premiere of the finished work was given on October 14, 1901 with the same two principals and the orchestra of the Moscow Philharmonic Society.

The C minor Concerto begins with eight bell-tone chords from the solo piano that herald the surging main theme, which is announced by the strings. A climax is achieved before a sudden drop in intensity makes way for the arching second theme, initiated by the soloist. The development section, concerned largely with the first theme, is propelled by a martial rhythm that continues with undiminished energy into the recapitulation. The second theme returns in the horn before the martial mood is re-established to close the movement. The Adagio, a long-limbed nocturne with a running commentary of sweeping figurations from the piano, contains some beautiful concerted instrumental writing. The finale resumes the marching rhythmic motion of the first movement with its introduction and bold main theme. Standing in bold relief to this vigorous music is the lyrical second theme, one of the best-loved melodies in the entire orchestral literature, a grand inspiration in the ripest Romantic tradition. (Years ago, this melody was lifted from the Concerto by the tunesmiths of Tin Pan Alley and fitted with sufficiently maudlin phrases to become the popular hit Full Moon and Empty Arms.) These two themes, the martial and the romantic, alternate for the remainder of the movement. The coda rises through a finely crafted line of mounting tension to bring this work to an electrifying close.

ARTISTS
Jon Kimura Parker pianoAbout this Artist
Jon Kimura ParkerKnown for his passionate artistry and engaging stage presence, pianist Jon Kimura Parker has performed as guest soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Wolfgang Sawallisch in Carnegie Hall, toured Europe with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Andre Previn, and shared the stage with Jessye Norman at Berlin's Philharmonie. Conductors he has recently worked with include Teddy Abrams, Pablo Heras-Cassado, Claus Peter Flor, Hans Graf, Matthew Halls, Jeffrey Kahane, Peter Oundjian, Larry Rachleff, Bramwell Tovey, Xu Zhong and Pinchas Zukerman. A true Canadian ambassador of music, Mr. Parker has given command performances for Queen Elizabeth II, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Prime Ministers of Canada and Japan. He is an Officer of The Order of Canada, his country's highest civilian honor.

 

He performs as duo partner regularly with James Ehnes, Aloysia Friedmann, Lynn Harrell, Jamie Parker, Orli Shaham, and Cho-Liang Lin, with whom he has given world premieres of sonatas by Paul Schoenfield, John Harbison and Steven Stucky. He performs regularly with the Miró Quartet, and is a founding member of the Montrose Trio with violinist Martin Beaver and cellist Clive Greensmith. The Washington Post's review of the Montrose Trio's first tour in 2015 proclaimed them "poised to become one of the top piano trios in the world."

As a member of the outreach project Piano Plus, Mr. Parker toured remote areas including the Canadian Arctic, performing classical music and rock'n'roll on everything from upright pianos to electronic keyboards. In commemoration of his special performances in war-torn Sarajevo in 1995, he was a featured speaker alongside humanitarians Elie Wiesel and Paul Rusesabagina at the 50th Anniversary of the relief organization AmeriCares.

An unusually versatile artist, Mr. Parker has also jammed with Audra McDonald, Bobby McFerrin, and Doc Severinsen, and this season performed tangos on two pianos with Pablo Ziegler. Mr. Parker also debuted his new project Off The Score in a quintet with legendary Police drummer Stewart Copeland, featuring both original compositions and fresh takes on music of Ravel, Prokofiev and Stravinsky.

An active media personality, Mr. Parker hosted the television series Whole Notes on Bravo! and CBC Radio's Up and Coming. His YouTube channel showcases the Concerto Chat video series, with illuminating discussions of the piano concerto repertoire.

This season, Mr. Parker performs as concerto soloist with the New York Philharmonic and Bramwell Tovey, the Chicago Symphony and the Philadelphia Orchestra with Marin Alsop, The Milwaukee Symphony with Lawrence Renes, the IRIS Orchestra with Michael Stern, the Naples Philharmonic with Andre Boreyko, and the Minnesota Orchestra with Gilbert Varga. He gives recitals with Cho-Liang Lin, tours Off the Score with Stewart Copeland in the spring of 2016, and throughout the season gives twenty concerts with the Montrose Trio.

A committed educator, Jon Kimura Parker is Professor of Piano at The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. His students have won international piano competitions, performed with major orchestras across the U.S., and given recitals in Amsterdam, Beijing, New York and Moscow. He has lectured at The Juilliard School, The Colburn School, The Steans Institute, New York University, and Yale University. Mr. Parker is also Artistic Advisor of the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival, where he has given world premieres of new works by Peter Schickele and Jake Heggie.

Jon Kimura Parker has recorded music of Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Chopin and PDQ Bach for Telarc, Mozart for CBC, and Stravinsky, Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, Di Liberto and Hirtz under his own label. His new CD Fantasy features Fantasies of Schubert and Schumann, as well as the sensational Wizard of Oz Fantasy by William Hirtz, receiving this praise from Classical Candor: "The reading is riveting. Parker scores with another favorite recording of the year."

"Jackie" Parker studied with Edward Parker and Keiko Parker privately, Lee Kum-Sing at the Vancouver Academy of Music and the University of British Columbia, Robin Wood at the Victoria Conservatory, Marek Jablonski at the Banff Centre, and Adele Marcus at The Juilliard School. He won the Gold Medal at the 1984 Leeds International Piano Competition. He lives in Houston with his wife, violinist Aloysia Friedmann and their daughter Sophie.

- See more at: http://www.jonkimuraparker.com

 

Michael Stern conductorAbout this Artist

Michael Stern BioConductor Michael Stern is the Music Director of IRIS Orchestra in Germantown, Tennessee. Now in its second decade, IRIS has a unique model, drawing its musicians from the leading orchestras, universities and chamber groups around the country. IRIS has been unanimously heralded for the virtuosity of its playing; the depth and variety of its programming, with special emphasis on American contemporary music; and its acclaimed recordings on the Naxos and Arabesque labels. Under Stern’s direction, IRIS has commissioned and premiered works by William Bolcom, Chris Brubeck, Richard Danielpour, Stephen Hartke, Edgar Meyer, Jonathan Leshnoff, Ned Rorem, Huang Ruo, Adam Schoenberg, and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, among others.

The 2015-16 season also marks Stern's tenth as Music Director of the Kansas City Symphony, hailed for its remarkable artistic growth and development since his tenure began. Mr. Stern and the orchestra, joined by an amazing collection of guest artists, have performed to critical acclaim and sold-out audiences in their new world-class performance home, Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

The Kansas City Symphony’s second CD for award-winning audiophile label Reference Recordings, Britten’s Orchestra, won a 2011 Grammy award in the “Surround Sound Album” category, and producer David Frost won “Producer of the Year, Classical.” The Symphony and Mr. Stern have also recorded for the Naxos label. The Symphony’s concerts with internationally celebrated mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato were featured on the national PBS Summer Arts Series in July 2012.

Other positions include a tenure as the chief conductor of Germany’s Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra (the first American chief conductor in the orchestra’s history) and as Permanent Guest Conductor of the Orchestre National de Lyon in France, a position which he held for five years, and a stint as the Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestre National de Lille, France.

Michael Stern has led orchestras throughout Europe and Asia, including the London Symphony, London Philharmonic, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, Helsinki Philharmonic, Budapest Radio Symphony Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic, Moscow Philharmonic, National Symphony of Taiwan, Tokyo’s NHK Symphony and the Vienna Radio Symphony, among many others.

In North America, Mr. Stern has conducted the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Houston Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Toronto Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Montreal Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, and the National Symphony in Washington, D.C. He has also appeared regularly at the Aspen Music Festival.

Mr. Stern received his music degree from The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where his major teacher was the noted conductor and scholar Max Rudolf. Mr. Stern co-edited the third edition of Rudolf’s famous textbook, The Grammar of Conducting, and also edited a new volume of Rudolf’s collected writings and correspondence. He is a 1981 graduate of Harvard University, where he earned a degree in American history. He makes his home in Kansas City and in Connecticut with his wife, Shelly Cryer, and their two young daughters.

VIDEO
FEATURED ARTISTPinchas Zukerman IRIS Strings

IRIS Orchestra
Michael Stern, conductor
Featuring: the Musicians of IRIS

Date: Saturday, December 5, 2015 at 8:00pm
Sunday, December 6, 2015 at 2:00pm
Location: GPAC (Directions)

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We open our annual concert spotlighting the brilliant string virtuosi of IRIS Orchestra with a "Sweet Sixteen" work from the great American composer Samuel Barber. His firstorchestralouting,theSerenadeforStrings,Op.1, shows the mastery of craft that would become the hallmark of his illustrious career. A beautiful and seldom-played American work from the 19th century by Arthur Foote joins established masterpieces from Norway, Italy and Russia by Edward Grieg, Giacomo Puccini, and Tchaikovsky, respectively, whose triumphal Souvenir de Florence caps this stunning program..

PROGRAM
Barber Serenade for StringsAbout this Music

Composed for string quartet in 1928; arranged for string orchestra in 1943.
String quartet version premiered on May 5, 1930 at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia; orchestral version premiered in 1943 over the Mutual Broadcasting System conducted by Alfred Wallenstein.

In 1924, at the tender age of fourteen, Samuel Barber entered the inaugural class of Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music. He first studied piano (with Isabelle Vengerova), and in successive years added lessons in composition (Rosario Scalero), voice (Emilio de Gogorza) and conducting (Fritz Reiner), eliciting the highest praise from his instructors for his musical gifts and his keen intelligence. In 1928, when he was just eighteen and after only two years of study with Scalero, Barber composed a Serenade for String Quartet, which he deemed significant enough to christen as his Op. 1. When he showed the score to Sidney Homer, an accomplished song composer and husband of his aunt, the great Metropolitan Opera contralto Louise Homer, his uncle responded, "I am amazed at what you have accomplished; I would not have thought it possible. The energy, strength, virility, mastery of form, definite message, clear thought-out intention, freedom from commonplace, all this is astonishing." Soon after completing the Serenade, Barber began his regular travel to Europe for music study and general cultural education, and in the bustle of his departure in May 1929 he lost track of the score. It was not found until the following spring, when the work received its premiere on a concert of pieces by Scalero's students at Curtis on May 5, 1930. The Serenade was played again at Curtis in 1934, given its broadcast premiere in February 1935 on an all-Barber concert on NBC, performed the following year at the American Academy in Rome when Barber was a fellow there, and included on the recitals of the Curtis Quartet when they toured Europe in the fall of 1936. The work was arranged for string orchestra in 1943, while Barber was serving in the United States Army, and first performed in that version later that year on a Mutual Network broadcast conducted by Alfred Wallenstein; the score was published in 1944 by G. Schirmer.

The Serenade begins with a somber introduction whose opening motive is transformed into the quick-tempo main theme of the truncated sonata form that follows. A more expansive subsidiary subject and a tiny development section lead to a condensed reprise of the main theme to round out this succinct movement. The pensive Andante is in two brief formal strophes, each containing a lyrical melody in gently rocking meter and an arching motive whose notes are grouped in pairs. The final movement is a Dance whose outer sections are based on a playful strain that is contrasted by the more sedate episode at the movement's center.

Foote Air and Gavotte About this Music

Composed in 1889 and 1866. Premiered on March 9, 1893 in Breslau, Germany, conducted by Georg Riemenschneider.

Arthur Foote, one of the seminal figures in the American concert music, was born on March 5, 1853 into an old New England family in the storied Massachusetts town of Salem, where his father was editor of the local newspaper. Though the family had no special musical bent, Arthur began taking piano lessons at age twelve as part of his general education. He quickly showed both skill and enjoyment in that endeavor, however, and after just two years of study, his teacher, Fanny Paine, took him to her own teacher in Boston, Benjamin Johnson Lang, who got the boy enrolled in Stephen A. Emery's harmony class at the New England Conservatory. Despite Foote's evident talents, he chose not to pursue a musical career — there were then few places for professional training in America and, in any case, music was still somewhat suspect as a line of work at that time, even in the enlightened "Athens of America," as Boston haughtily styled itself — but instead entered Harvard in 1870 to study business. The following year the tireless composer, conductor, organist and teacher John Knowles Paine got himself appointed to the Harvard faculty as the first professor of music at an American university. Foote enrolled in Paine's newly established music department — also the first at an American university — to study fugue and counterpoint with him, and by 1872 he had sufficiently established his musical credentials to become director of the Harvard Glee Club, a post he led until his graduation (and election to Phi Beta Kappa) two years later. Still uncertain about undertaking a musical career, Foote planned to enter law school in fall 1874, but that summer he took some organ lessons with B.J. Lang, who so encouraged Foote about his prospects as a professional musician that he decided to return to Harvard for advanced study. In 1875, Arthur Foote received the first master's degree in music awarded by an American university.

After graduating, Foote set up a studio on Beacon Hill in Boston, next to the Harvard Musical Association, and established his reputation as one of the city's leading musical figures and teachers of piano, organ and composition, the thread of work around which his long career was to unwind. He made his formal debut as a pianist in Boston in 1876, was appointed organist at the Church of the Disciples that same year, and moved to the First Unitarian Church in 1878, where he remained as organist for the next 32 years. In 1877, a piece of his (the Gavotte for piano) was publicly heard for the first time; three years later he initiated a series of chamber music concerts in Boston at which he frequently appeared as recitalist and ensemble player. The first of his many publications (Three Pieces for Piano and Cello) was issued in 1882 — only about forty of his more than 400 works did not appear in print during his lifetime. His initial orchestral venture, In the Mountains, was premiered in 1887 by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, beginning an association with that distinguished ensemble that would span the next half-century: Foote appeared as piano soloist with the BSO on at least eight occasions and Sergei Koussevitzky honored the composer's eightieth birthday with a concert of his music at Symphony Hall in 1933. Though Foote remained largely independent in his professional work, he lectured at the University of California in Berkeley during the summer of 1911 and taught piano at the New England Conservatory from 1921 until his death from pneumonia in Boston in 1937. In addition to teaching, composing and performing, Foote authored many journal articles as well as an autobiography and popular texts on musical theory and piano playing. He was also a founding member of the American Guild of Organists and that organization's national president from 1909 to 1912, and an active member of the Music Teachers National Association during its early years. His distinctions included election to the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1898) and the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1913), and honorary doctorates from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut (1919) and Dartmouth College (1925).

Though Foote's musical language was closely modeled on the late Romantic styles of Wagner and Brahms that he learned at Harvard from the German-trained Paine (Foote made a pilgrimage to the first Bayreuth Festival, in 1876, and returned frequently to Europe thereafter), he bypassed the grand forms of symphony and opera in favor of more modest genres. In summarizing Foote's musical personality, Wilma Reid Cipolla wrote in the Grove Dictionary, "In his finest works, Foote was a memorable composer. His style, firmly placed in the Romantic tradition, is characterized by lyrical melodies, expressive phrasing and clear formal structures infused with impassioned feeling."

The Air and Gavotte were originally included in the Suite in D major, Op. 21 that Foote wrote in 1889; the former was newly composed, the latter may have originated as early as 1866, when he was thirteen. In 1891 he redeployed the two movements in the Serenade for Strings, Op. 25. The score of the Serenade was dedicated to Henry Higginson, founder of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1881, but the work's first performance was given in Breslau, Germany on March 9, 1893 under the direction of Georg Riemenschneider. The Air, lyrical, pensive and deftly scored for strings, is an homage to the beloved Air on the G String from Bach's Suite in D major (BWV 1068). The lively Gavotte is Foote's modern analogue to the old dance that originated with the French peasantry in the late 16th century.

Grieg Holberg SuiteAbout this Music

Composed for solo piano in 1884; arranged for string orchestra in 1885. Premiered in March 1885 in Bergen, conducted by the composer.

By 1884, the year Grieg composed the Holberg Suite, the pattern of his life had become well established. After serving as conductor of the Harmoniske Selskab in his native Bergen from 1880 to 1882, he never again held an official appointment, freeing himself to pursue the things that pleased him the most deeply. Thereafter, he usually spent the spring and early summer months in the composition of new works or the revision of older ones. Later in the summer, he would make a journey on foot through the beautiful mountains of Norway, often in the company of such friends as Julius Röntgen or Percy Grainger. The fall and winter were given over to the extensive concert tours as pianist throughout Europe that Grieg, despite his fragile health, seemed unable to resist. By the last two decades of the 19th century, Grieg was recognized as not only the most prominent musician in Scandinavia, but also as one of the world's pre-eminent composers.

In 1884, Grieg was approached by the commission organizing the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig Holberg, the writer generally acknowledged as the founder of the Danish-Norwegian school of literature, to make a musical contribution to the proceedings. Holberg (1684-1754), a native of Grieg's hometown of Bergen, Norway, attended the universities of Copenhagen and Oxford before settling permanently in Denmark in 1717. He gained fame with his satiric comedy Peder Paars of 1719, a work with sufficient social barbs to rouse the ire of the authorities. His recognition continued to grow, however, and in 1722 he was named as playwright to the newly formed Danish National Theater, for which he wrote, within the next five years, a series of 26 comic masterpieces inspired by Molière and the commedia dell'arte. His comedies were the first original plays written in the Danish language. After 1727, he wrote several volumes of history and biography, but his early plays always remained his most popular works. "[His plays] frequently poked fun at people who thought it smart to speak Latin, German or French in preference to their native Danish or Norwegian," wrote Georg Strandvold. "They also ridiculed the mustiness and artificiality of Holberg's age and, in general, satirized the lives and manners of his contemporaries. Holberg's comedies are considered ageless because their characters remain as true to life in modern times as they were more than 200 years ago."

The center of the 1884 Holberg celebration was in Bergen, where the playwright was born. A new statue of him was to be unveiled on the waterfront, and a series of concerts was planned to commemorate the event, to which Niels Gade contributed a Holbergian Suite and Grieg a cantata for men's voices and the piano suite From Holberg's Time, which he arranged the following year for string orchestra. Grieg cast the movements of his charming suite in the musical forms of the 18th century, but filled them with the spirit of his own time and style. A vivacious Praelude, a miniature sonata-form movement, is followed by a series of dances: a touching Sarabande; a perky Gavotte, which is linked to a Musette built above a mock-bagpipe drone; a solemn Air, modeled on the Air on the G String from Bach's Third Orchestral Suite; and a lively closing Rigaudon.

Puccini Crisantemi ("Chrysanthemums") About this Music

Composed in 1890.

In 1883, the year that he graduated from the Milan Conservatory, Puccini submitted his first opera, the one-act Le Villi, to a competition sponsored by the publisher Edoardo Sonzogno. The work won nothing, but it did bring him to the attention of the composer and librettist Arrigo Boito, who, in turn, introduced him to the powerful publisher Giulio Ricordi. Ricordi sensed Puccini's genius, and, on May 31, 1884, Le Villi was produced on his recommendation at the Teatro dal Verme in Milan with gratifying success. Ricordi started to pay the young composer a small monthly stipend against future revenues, and Puccini set to work on Le Villi's successor, Edgar, based on a tale by the French poet Alfred de Musset. Edgar was not completed until 1888, however, and met with only a lukewarm response when it was mounted at La Scala the following year. Though Ricordi continued his payments, the years immediately after the premiere of Edgar were difficult for Puccini, who lived in virtual poverty much of the time, often subsisting on little more than beans and onions. (He couldn't stand beans for the rest of his life.) Blaming his lack of success on poor librettos, in 1889 he turned to Manon, the novel by the Abbé Prévost which Massenet had used for his 1884 opera (not staged in Italy until 1893, however), and had Ricordi commission an opera text based on the story. The title Manon Lescaut was chosen to avoid confusion with Massenet's opera. Both to keep his frustrations at bay and to make a gesture of good will to Ricordi, he composed a miniature called Crisantemi — "Chrysanthemums" — for string quartet in 1890 while waiting for the libretto to be finished. It was published that same year. When Manon Lescaut was finally completed and premiered in 1893, it was a triumph.

Crisantemi, written in memory of the recently deceased Amedeo of Savoy, Duke of the ruling house of Aosta (chrysanthemums are traditionally associated with funerals and mourning in Italy), is a wistful piece, filled with the bittersweet melancholy that so touchingly marks Puccini's later operas. Indeed, so faithful is the manner of Crisantemi to his characteristic lyricism and pathos that he borrowed both of its themes for use in the tragic last act of Manon Lescaut.

Tchaikovsky Souvenir de Florence About this Music

Composed in 1890; revised in 1891-1892. Premiered on December 7, 1892 in St. Petersburg.

Tchaikovsky's soul was seldom at rest in the years following his marital disaster in 1877, and he sought distraction in frequent travel abroad; Paris and Italy were his favorite destinations. In January 1890, he settled in Florence, and spent the next three months in that beautiful city working on his latest operatic venture, Pique Dame ("The Queen of Spades"). He took long walks along the Arno, marveled that spring flowers sprouted in February, and savored the food. After a brief stay in Rome, he arrived back in Russia on May 1st, noting five days later to a friend that after finishing Pique Dame, "I want to make sketches for a sextet for strings." The orchestration of the opera was completed by early the next month, and on June 12th he told his brother Modeste that he was "starting the string sextet tomorrow." The work was sketched within a month, and performed privately in November, but Tchaikovsky reported to the composer Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov that "it turned out poorly in all respects." He began a revision early in 1891, but had to put it aside for his tour to the United States in April and May, and then for the composition and production of The Nutcracker and the opera Iolanthe; the new version was not finished until January 1892 in Paris. It was at that time that Tchaikovsky, without further explanation, appended the phrase "Souvenir de Florence" to the work's title.

In their biography of Tchaikovsky, Lawrence and Elisabeth Hanson wrote, "The Souvenir de Florence is not great music but it is very pleasant and extremely cleverly constructed. It is above all suffused with an atmosphere not often associated with this composer, of a calm geniality." It is probably this quality that prompted Tchaikovsky, who often wrote in his letters of the "heavenly" Italian climate, to add the sobriquet to the work's original title. The music itself is decidedly Russian in mood and melody, with only a certain lightness of spirit in the first two movements showing any possible Italianate traits. Indeed, if anything the Sextet exhibits a strong German influence in the richness of its string sonorities and thematic development, which frequently recall Brahms' chamber music. The opening movement is a full sonata structure given in the style of a bustling waltz. The following Adagio is disposed in a three-part form whose brief center section is constructed from a delightful, fluttering rhythmic figuration. The two closing movements are based on folk-like themes, the first a sad song that is the subject of considerable elaboration as it progresses, the other a bounding Cossack dance.

ARTISTS
Michael Stern conductorAbout this Artist

Michael Stern BioConductor Michael Stern is the Music Director of IRIS Orchestra in Germantown, Tennessee. Now in its second decade, IRIS has a unique model, drawing its musicians from the leading orchestras, universities and chamber groups around the country. IRIS has been unanimously heralded for the virtuosity of its playing; the depth and variety of its programming, with special emphasis on American contemporary music; and its acclaimed recordings on the Naxos and Arabesque labels. Under Stern’s direction, IRIS has commissioned and premiered works by William Bolcom, Chris Brubeck, Richard Danielpour, Stephen Hartke, Edgar Meyer, Jonathan Leshnoff, Ned Rorem, Huang Ruo, Adam Schoenberg, and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, among others.

The 2015-16 season also marks Stern's tenth as Music Director of the Kansas City Symphony, hailed for its remarkable artistic growth and development since his tenure began. Mr. Stern and the orchestra, joined by an amazing collection of guest artists, have performed to critical acclaim and sold-out audiences in their new world-class performance home, Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

The Kansas City Symphony’s second CD for award-winning audiophile label Reference Recordings, Britten’s Orchestra, won a 2011 Grammy award in the “Surround Sound Album” category, and producer David Frost won “Producer of the Year, Classical.” The Symphony and Mr. Stern have also recorded for the Naxos label. The Symphony’s concerts with internationally celebrated mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato were featured on the national PBS Summer Arts Series in July 2012.

Other positions include a tenure as the chief conductor of Germany’s Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra (the first American chief conductor in the orchestra’s history) and as Permanent Guest Conductor of the Orchestre National de Lyon in France, a position which he held for five years, and a stint as the Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestre National de Lille, France.

Michael Stern has led orchestras throughout Europe and Asia, including the London Symphony, London Philharmonic, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, Helsinki Philharmonic, Budapest Radio Symphony Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic, Moscow Philharmonic, National Symphony of Taiwan, Tokyo’s NHK Symphony and the Vienna Radio Symphony, among many others.

In North America, Mr. Stern has conducted the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Houston Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Toronto Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Montreal Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, and the National Symphony in Washington, D.C. He has also appeared regularly at the Aspen Music Festival.

Mr. Stern received his music degree from The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where his major teacher was the noted conductor and scholar Max Rudolf. Mr. Stern co-edited the third edition of Rudolf’s famous textbook, The Grammar of Conducting, and also edited a new volume of Rudolf’s collected writings and correspondence. He is a 1981 graduate of Harvard University, where he earned a degree in American history. He makes his home in Kansas City and in Connecticut with his wife, Shelly Cryer, and their two young daughters.

 

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FEATURED ARTIST


IRIS Musicians

 

Midori

IRIS Orchestra
Michael Stern, conductor
Featuring: Midori, violin

Date: Saturday, January 23, 2016 at 8:00pm
Sunday, January 24, 2016 at 2:00pm
Location: GPAC (Directions)

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Georges Bizet, the composer of Carmen - arguably the most popular Romantic opera in the canon - wrote his brilliant Symphony No. 1 just after his 17th birthday. The beauty of this precocious work caused a sensation, and Bizet found himself compared favorably to a young Mozart. Lost for eight decades, it was given its first performance in 1935, and has been a gem of the orchestral repertoire ever since. Elliot Carter, a major force in American music who continued to compose almost until his recent death at the age of 103, announced himself to the world as a symphonist with his tonal, patriotic, even giddy Symphony No. 1. This piece premiered at the height of World War II, a remarkable creation from a true American original. The beloved artist Midori, a violin powerhouse since her own teenage years, returns to IRIS to perform Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto.

 

 

PROGRAM
Bizet Symphony in CAbout this Music

Composed in 1855. Premiered on February 26, 1935 in Basle, conducted by Felix Weingartner.

Georges Bizet lived for only three dozen years, and each of those dozens marked an important phase of his short life. During the first twelve years, only little time was devoted to the usual activities of childhood, since Georges, the offspring of two talented musicians, was breathtakingly precocious in musical matters. He was admitted to the Paris Conservatoire at the age of nine and was winning prizes there within a year. He produced his earliest known works, two vocalises for soprano, at twelve.

The second dozen years of Bizet's life were the happiest he was to know. He studied at the Conservatoire until he was nineteen, garnering awards for piano, organ, fugue and solfeggio, and composing a va­riety of works, one of which was a prize-winning operetta in a competition sponsored by Jacques Offenbach. At nineteen, he won the Prix de Rome, which supplied him with a five-year stipend, a residency in Italy and France, and the opportunity to devote himself to composition. He did complete several works during that time, but he projected far more that came to nothing. Despite developing a throat ailment that plagued him all his life, Bizet was active enough during those years to establish a modest reputation as a composer and an excellent one as a pianist. The years of planning, composing and travel came to an end when his prize stipend expired. At the age of 24 he was faced with the perplexing reality of providing his own living.

After 1863, Bizet gave much of his time to all manner of musical hackwork: private teacher, rehearsal accompanist, music critic, but mostly to transcribing the popular pieces of the day for a variety of instruments. "It is maddening to interrupt the work I love for two days in order to write cornet solos. Still, one must live!" he lamented. He continued to plan many works for both opera house and concert hall, but had to abandon most of these because of lack of time. From these later years date the works for which he is mainly remembered: The Pearl Fishers, Jeux d'enfants, the incidental music to L'Arlésienne and Carmen. None of these pieces provided him the success he worked so hard to achieve, however, and he lived in a state of continual frustration that Winton Dean described as "settled melancholy." "We often sensed tears in his voice," a friend wrote. Bizet died before he knew that Carmen would make his name famous around the world.

Bizet's Symphony in C, written in his seventeenth year, is a marvel of early musical maturation that rivals the precocity of Mozart and Mendelssohn. It is a work in which the composer exhibited his careful study of, among others, Haydn, Rossini and Gounod (Gounod was Bizet's counterpoint teacher whose own First Symphony appeared only a year earlier), and vitalized it with his own ebullient, youthful spirit and characteristic touches of melody, harmony and orchestration. Curiously, the work seems not to have been performed during Bizet's lifetime. The manuscript became part of his estate after his death and passed into the possession of his wife, who did not fully appreciate her husband's genius. She bequeathed it to the composer Reynaldo Hahn and he to the Paris Conservatoire Library, where it gathered dust until Bizet's first English biographer, D.C. Parker, unearthed it in 1933. It was finally premiered on February 26, 1935 in Basle, Switzerland by Felix Weingartner.

The Symphony in C opens with a movement in traditional sonata form, with a bubbling main theme outlining chordal patterns and a contrasting legato second theme, introduced by the oboe, in longer notes. The slow second movement contains a haunting, bittersweet serenade for oboe followed by a soaring melody for strings. The movement is rounded out by the return of the oboe theme. The concluding two movements are a sprightly scherzo with a rustic-sounding trio and a vivacious finale, cast, like the first movement, in sonata form.

Carter Symphony No. 1About this Music

Composed in 1942; revised in 1954. Premiered on April 27, 1944 in Rochester, New York, conducted by Howard Hanson.

Elliott Carter was one of this country's most highly respected composers: winner of two Pulitzer Prizes (for his String Quartets Nos. 2 and 3), holder of honorary degrees from Harvard, Yale and Princeton, member of the American Academy and the Institute of Arts and Letters, recipient of the Siemens Music Prize, American Prix de Rome, United States National Medal of Arts and the Gold Medal of the National Institute of Arts and Letters for Eminence in Music. In 1988, he was made Commandeur dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government, and the following year he received the Prince Pierre Foundation Music Award from the Principality of Monaco and was named to the Classical Music Hall of Fame in Cincinnati, one of only a handful of living composers accorded that honor. In 2009, he received the Trustees Award from the Grammy Awards for lifetime achievement by a non-performer.

The son of a successful New York City merchant, Carter showed extraordinary musical gifts as a youngster. He started piano lessons early, and could identify the compositions on the family's phonograph records by the time he was able to read and write. His interest in music, especially new music, was encouraged by his friends at Horace Mann High School, with whom he attended concerts of such avant-garde composers as Ives, Cowell and Varèse, and explored such exoticisms as Indian and Balinese music. In 1925, he accompanied his father on a trip to Vienna, where the young musician purchased all the available scores of Webern, Schoenberg and Berg so that he could study their revolutionary style. (Schoenberg's first twelve-tone work, the Piano Suite, Op. 25, had just been published.) Carter's work was decisively influenced by Charles Ives, whom he met at the age of sixteen. The two saw each other often thereafter to play four-hand piano music, attend concerts, and evaluate Carter's early creative efforts. It was Ives who encouraged his young friend to pursue music as a profession.

Carter matriculated at Harvard not in the music program, however, but in the English literature curriculum, though he took private instruction in solfeggio and piano, regularly attended Koussevitzky's adventurous concerts with the Boston Symphony, and performed in chamber groups in the area. His summers were spent in Munich and Salzburg studying both the modern and classical repertories. By the time that he received his B.A. degree in 1930, Carter was determined to be a composer, and he enrolled in the University's graduate program to study harmony and counterpoint with Walter Piston, choral composition with A.T. Davison, music history with Edward Burlingame Hill and composition with Gustav Holst, who was visiting professor there at that time. Following his graduation in 1932, Carter studied for three years with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, where he also sang in a madrigal group and conducted a chorus that he founded. The works he composed during those years — a string quartet, a flute sonata, vocal and choral pieces — were withdrawn, but soon after returning home in 1935, he produced incidental music for a production of Plautus' Mostelaria by the Harvard Classical Club and a commissioned score for the Ballet Caravan on the subject of Pocohontas as his first major orchestral compositions.

Carter arrived in New York in 1936, where he wrote articles for the periodical Modern Music and served as music director of the Ballet Caravan from 1937 to 1939. His works of that time, including an English horn concerto, an oratorio and a book of madrigals, already show the complex rhythmic and metrical structures that became such important components of his later music. In 1939, he married the sculptor and art critic Helen Frost-Jones, and took a position at St. John's College in Annapolis to teach music, Greek and mathematics. Following his stint at St. John's, Carter moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he completed his Symphony No. 1 in December 1942. Like other of his early works, the Symphony evinces his identification at the time with the quest for a populist concert music then holding the attention of America's best composers. He studied meticulously Roger Sessions' Symphony No. 1, Harris' Symphony No. 3 and Copland's Short Symphony, and sought (and took) Copland's advice about revisions to the new work. "I wrote my First Symphony in a deliberately restricted idiom," the composer told Allen Edwards in their extensive interview published in 1971 as Flawed Words and Stubborn Sounds. "It is an effort to produce a work that meant something to me as music and yet might, I hoped, be understandable to the general music public." Though the evidence of the music suggests that he should have succeeded, the Symphony remained almost unheard in this country for many years after its premiere by Howard Hanson and the Eastman-Rochester Symphony Orchestra on April 27, 1944. (Carter banned its performance during a period of uncertainty about his early compositions, but later accepted the score unequivocally into his creative canon.) Though it was recorded by the Louisville Symphony in 1961, the work was not heard in concert again until Sarah Caldwell conducted it with the Boston Symphony in 1976; it has since gained a marginal foothold in the American orchestral repertory.

In contrast to the later, more challenging compositions on which Carter's reputation is primarily founded, the First Symphony is lyrical (and sometimes even downright popular) in its themes, bucolic in its slow music and rhythmically infectious in its fast, diatonically consonant in its harmony, and optimistic and outgoing in its spirit. The composer noted that "the thematic material of the work suggests the folk-lore of the American rural past, and therefore is relatively simple in style, making use of moderate instrumental resources similar to those of the orchestra of the classic period. In this work, I have tried to suggest the characteristic beauties of Cape Cod, where it was written, and something of the extraordinary cultural background of New England, which this landscape brings to mind. The score is dedicated to my wife."

The first movement opens with a wide-ranging but lyrical melody (marked "wistfully") given by the clarinet and horn in flowing triple meter. After this theme is worked up to a climax by the full ensemble, the strings initiate a contrasting duple-meter strain, which is strongly syncopated and dance-like in its vitality. The continuous development of these two ideas in juxtaposition fills out the rest of the movement. The second movement follows the form of a broad arch, beginning and ending with quiet hymnal music and rising to a peak of expressive intensity in its middle regions. A leisurely, nostalgic song from the solo trumpet serves as the bridge from the opening section to the climax of the movement. The finale (Carter described its form as "a rondo") is a scintillating grab-bag of mid-20th-century musical Americana. High-stepping dances, jazz licks and Broadway tunes are all evoked by this music, which culminates in a riotous blues solo for squealing clarinet.

Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minorAbout this Music

Composed in 1844. Premiered on March 13, 1845 in Leipzig, conducted by Niels Gade with Ferdinand David as soloist.

"I would like to compose a violin concerto for next winter," Mendelssohn wrote in July 1838 to his friend, the violinist Ferdinand David. "One in E minor keeps running through my head, and the opening gives me no peace." It was for David that Mendelssohn planned and wrote his only mature Violin Concerto. Their friendship began when the two first met at about the age of fifteen while the young violinist was on a concert tour through Germany and they discovered that they had been born only eleven months apart in the same Hamburg neighborhood. Already well formed even in those early years, David's playing was said to have combined the serious, classical restraint of Ludwig Spohr, his teacher, the elegance of the French tradition and the technical brilliance of Paganini. Mendelssohn, who admired both the man and his playing, appointed David concertmaster of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra when he became that organization's music director in 1835. They remained close friends and musical allies. When Mendelssohn's health was feeble, David looked after much of the routine activity of the Gewandhaus, where he spent 37 years, and he even stepped in to conduct the premiere of Mendelssohn's oratorio St. Paul when the composer was stricken during a measles epidemic in 1836. Two years later Mendelssohn expressed his appreciation to David: "I realize that there are not really many musicians who pursue such a straight road in art undeviatingly as you do, or in whose active course I could feel the same intense delight that I do in yours."

Despite his good intentions and the gentle prodding of David to complete his Violin Concerto, Mendelssohn did not get around to serious work on the score until 1844, after he had fulfilled numerous other composition and conducting commitments, including a particularly troublesome one as director of the Academy of Arts in Berlin. The requirements of that position — which included composing the incidental music to A Midsummer Night's Dream — occupied much of his time, and it was not until he resigned from the post in 1844 that he was able to complete the Violin Concerto. He worked closely with David while composing the piece, inviting his suggestions about both the technique of the soloist's part and the suitability of the music as a vehicle for the violin, not least their shared concern that the violin part "could be executed with the greatest delicacy." He deferred to David in most of the technical questions, and it seems that David himself was responsible for the work's single, finely crafted cadenza.

Both men had a contempt for the empty showpiece concerto of the early Romantic era that contained little more than what Mendelssohn called "juggler's tricks and rope dancer's feats." It was therefore probably inevitable that this Concerto should emerge as a serious musical creation. David thought that it would be an excellent companion to Beethoven's Concerto; the eminent English musicologist Sir Donald Tovey wrote, "I rather envy the enjoyment of anyone who should hear the Mendelssohn Concerto for the first time and find that, like Hamlet, it was full of quotations"; Jascha Heifetz (who recorded the Concerto on a Guarnerius violin that David owned) was once prompted by the work's undiminished popularity to say that "it is always retired at the end of one season, and revived at the beginning of the next." Louis Biancolli summarized the character of this work of Mendelssohn's maturity, completed only two years before his death at the age of 38: "In classical poise, melodic suavity, and refined romantic feeling, it is an epitome of his style.... Finesse, cultivated taste, and an unerring sense of the appropriate were among his chief attributes."

The Concerto opens with a soaring violin melody whose lyricism exhibits a grand passion tinged with restless, Romantic melancholy. Some glistening passagework for the violinist leads through a transition melody to the second theme, a quiet, sunny strain shared by woodwinds and soloist. More glistening arabesques from the violinist and a quickened rhythm close the exposition. The succinct development section is largely based on the opening theme. In this Concerto, Mendelssohn moved the cadenza forward from its traditional place as an appendage near the end of the first movement to become an integral component of the structure, here separating the development from the recapitulation. It leads seamlessly into the restatement of the movement's thematic material and the exhilarating closing pages.

The thread of a single note sustained by the bassoon carries the Concerto to the Andante, a song rich in warm sentiment and endearing elegance. This slow movement's center section is distinguished by its rustling accompaniment and bittersweet minor-mode melody. A dozen measures of chordal writing for strings link the Andante to the finale, an effervescent sonata form that trips along with the distinctive aerial grace of which Mendelssohn was the undisputed master.

In 1906, one of the 19th-century's greatest violinists and an ardent exponent of Mendelssohn's Concerto, Joseph Joachim, told the guests at a party in his honor, "The Germans have four violin concertos. The greatest, the one that makes the fewest concessions, is Beethoven's. The one by Brahms comes closest to Beethoven's in its seriousness. Max Bruch wrote the richest and most enchanting of the four. But the dearest of them all, the heart's jewel, is Mendelssohn's."

ARTISTS
Midori violinAbout this Artist

In the 2014-2015 season, the 32nd of violinist Midori's professional career, she played the world premiere of a new work by Johannes Maria Staud - Oskar (Towards a Brighter Hue II), Music for Violin, String Orchestra and Percussion - at the Lucerne Festival and the Vienna Konzerthaus; she made two new recordings, one of Bach solo sonatas and partitas (for Onyx) and one of DoReMi, the violin concerto by Peter Eötvös (for Naïve); she continued her community engagement work in Japan and throughout the U.S., while doing her usual complement of recital, chamber music, and concerto appearances throughout the world. In another highlight of 2014-2015, Midori conducted a week-long festival at Tokyo's Suntory Hall, which featured four concerts, each with a different program. The week included a presentation by children with physical and developmental challenges from her Music Sharing organization; a concert featured Midori playing four complete violin concertos; two recitals (one of new music, one of standard repertoire) with pianist Özgür Aydin, and more. She was particularly excited to record one new violin concerto (the Eötvös) and play the world premiere of another (the Staud) in the same year. Midori has been given the prestigious title "Artiste étoile" by the Lucerne Festival, which co-commissioned the Staud concerto along with the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Konzerthaus, and the Vienna ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra. The world premiere was performed with James Gaffigan conducting the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, on 27 August 2014.

Today Midori is recognized as an extraordinary performer, a devoted and gifted educator, and an innovative community engagement activist. In recognition of the breadth and quality of her work in these three entirely separate fields, in 2012 she was given the prestigious Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum in Davos, was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and was awarded an honorary doctorate in music by Yale University. In 2007, she was named a Messenger of Peace by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In essence, over the years she has created a new model for young artists who seek to balance the joys and demands of a performing career at the highest level with a hands-on investment in the power of music to change lives.

Named Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of Southern California in 2012, Midori works with her students at USC's Thornton School, where she is also Jascha Heifetz Chair. Midori thrives amidst the challenges presented by her full-time career as educator at a major university. To these commitments she adds a guest professorship at Japan's Soai University, and substantial periods of time devoted to community engagement work.

Midori's involvement with community engagement began in earnest in 1992. Then just 21 years of age, she started an organization to bring music to underserved neighborhoods in the U.S. and Japan. What started with just individual personal appearances by Midori in classrooms and hospitals has blossomed over the last 22 years into four distinct organizations, whose impact is felt worldwide. The underlying idea inspiring Midori's community engagement work is that the joy of music should be available to all.

Because people in wealthy or privileged circumstances have easy access to the performing arts, Midori's organizations focus on bringing music to the less fortunate. Since 1992, Midori & Friends has enhanced the lives of over 225,000 New York City children who have little or no access to the arts, through high quality music education that nurtures their creativity and self-confidence (www.midoriandfriends.org); Partners in Performance offers recitals by Midori and others to chamber music lovers in small communities throughout the U.S. seldom visited by established touring artists (www.pipmusic.org); Orchestra Residencies Program brings a week-long residency by Midori to two U.S. youth orchestras with winning applications each year (www.gotomidori.com/orp/); and Music Sharing provides both traditional Japanese music and Western classical music performances and workshops to children in schools, hospitals and institutions; it also provides learning opportunities in Japan and Southeast Asia for young artists (chosen by audition from all over the world) who are interested in community/music engagement work (www.musicsharing.jp). Both Orchestra Residencies Program and Music Sharing also conduct satellite programs with Midori internationally, in such countries as Costa Rica, Myanmar, Bulgaria, Mongolia, and Cambodia.

Midori's enthusiasm for playing and supporting the music of our time has blossomed into a significant and ongoing commitment. Over the years she has commissioned works for a great variety of forces. Over all, the individuals Midori has sought out to create new repertoire for the violin represent an impressive array of some of the most talented of today's composers, including Lee Hyla, Rodion Shchedrin, Krzysztof Penderecki, Derek Bermel, Brett Dean, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Michael Hersch, Pierre Jalbert, Peter Eötvös, and now Johannes Maria Staud.

Midori's two most recent recordings join an already extensive discography on two other labels, with fourteen recordings on Sony Classical and two on Philips. In 2013, Finnish label Ondine featured Midori in a rare recording of Paul Hindemith's violin concerto, in collaboration with the NDR Symphony Orchestra and conductor Christoph Eschenbach, which won a Grammy for Best Classical Compendium. Later in the season the British label Onyx released a recital program by Midori with pianist Özgür Aydin in sonatas for violin and piano by Shostakovich, Janáček, and Bloch, which was nominated for an International Classical Music Award.

In 2004, Midori joined the ranks of published authors with the release in Germany of a memoir titled Einfach Midori (Simply Midori) for the publisher Henschel Verlag. It was updated and reissued in German-speaking territories in 2012.

In 2000, Midori received her bachelor's degree in Psychology and Gender Studies at the Gallatin School of New York University, graduating magna cum laude, and in 2005 earned her Master's degree in Psychology, also from NYU.

Midori was born in Osaka, Japan in 1971 and began studying the violin with her mother, Setsu Goto, at a very early age. Zubin Mehta first heard Midori play in 1982, and it was he who invited her to make her now legendary debut - at the age of 11 - at the New York Philharmonic's traditional New Year's Eve concert, on which occasion she received a standing ovation and the impetus to begin a major career. Today Midori lives in Los Angeles. Her violin is the 1734 Guarnerius del Gesù "ex-Huberman." She uses three bows - two by Dominique Peccatte, and one by Paul Siefried.

For more information about Midori, call 831-620-1332 and visit
www.GoToMidori.com and www.kathrynkingmedia.com.

 

Michael Stern conductorAbout this Artist

Michael Stern BioConductor Michael Stern is the Music Director of IRIS Orchestra in Germantown, Tennessee. Now in its second decade, IRIS has a unique model, drawing its musicians from the leading orchestras, universities and chamber groups around the country. IRIS has been unanimously heralded for the virtuosity of its playing; the depth and variety of its programming, with special emphasis on American contemporary music; and its acclaimed recordings on the Naxos and Arabesque labels. Under Stern’s direction, IRIS has commissioned and premiered works by William Bolcom, Chris Brubeck, Richard Danielpour, Stephen Hartke, Edgar Meyer, Jonathan Leshnoff, Ned Rorem, Huang Ruo, Adam Schoenberg, and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, among others.

The 2015-16 season also marks Stern's ntenth as Music Director of the Kansas City Symphony, hailed for its remarkable artistic growth and development since his tenure began. Mr. Stern and the orchestra, joined by an amazing collection of guest artists, have performed to critical acclaim and sold-out audiences in their new world-class performance home, Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

The Kansas City Symphony’s second CD for award-winning audiophile label Reference Recordings, Britten’s Orchestra, won a 2011 Grammy award in the “Surround Sound Album” category, and producer David Frost won “Producer of the Year, Classical.” The Symphony and Mr. Stern have also recorded for the Naxos label. The Symphony’s concerts with internationally celebrated mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato were featured on the national PBS Summer Arts Series in July 2012.

Other positions include a tenure as the chief conductor of Germany’s Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra (the first American chief conductor in the orchestra’s history) and as Permanent Guest Conductor of the Orchestre National de Lyon in France, a position which he held for five years, and a stint as the Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestre National de Lille, France.

Michael Stern has led orchestras throughout Europe and Asia, including the London Symphony, London Philharmonic, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, Helsinki Philharmonic, Budapest Radio Symphony Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic, Moscow Philharmonic, National Symphony of Taiwan, Tokyo’s NHK Symphony and the Vienna Radio Symphony, among many others.

In North America, Mr. Stern has conducted the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Houston Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Toronto Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Montreal Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, and the National Symphony in Washington, D.C. He has also appeared regularly at the Aspen Music Festival.

Mr. Stern received his music degree from The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where his major teacher was the noted conductor and scholar Max Rudolf. Mr. Stern co-edited the third edition of Rudolf’s famous textbook, The Grammar of Conducting, and also edited a new volume of Rudolf’s collected writings and correspondence. He is a 1981 graduate of Harvard University, where he earned a degree in American history. He makes his home in Kansas City and in Connecticut with his wife, Shelly Cryer, and their two young daughters.

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FETURED ARTISTS

Sharon Roffman
Project Trio
IRIS Orchestra
Michael Stern, conductor
Featuring: Project Trio, flute, cello, bass
Date: Saturday, February 27, 2016 at 8:00pm
Sunday, February 28, 2016 at 2:00pm
Location: GPAC (Directions)

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Our mission to nurture new American music is alive and well as we present an IRIS co-commission, a new concerto by our old friend and collaborator, composer Adam Schoenberg. Written specifically for Project Trio, this piece features the intrepid Greg Patillo, flute; Peter Seymour, bass; and Eric Stephenson, cello; brilliant musicians all. Opening the program is a wondrous work by Mozart, already a veteran composer at 16, when he wrote his Symphony No. 20. To close, Antonín Dvorak's most Brahmsian and romantic Symphony No. 7 rounds out this extraordinary evening.

PROGRAM
Mozart Symphony No. 20 in D majorAbout this Music

Composed in July 1772.

On December 15, 1771, Wolfgang Mozart, age sixteen, and his father, Leopold, returned to Salzburg from their second Italian tour following the staging of the young composer's new opera Ascanio in Alba in Milan. The day after their arrival, Sigismund, Archbishop of Salzburg and Leopold's employer, died. After three months of uncertainty over Sigismund's successor, Hieronymous Joseph Franz von Paula, Count of Colloredo was elected in March. For the installation ceremonies in April, Wolfgang was commissioned to compose a short allegorical opera on Metastasio's old text Il sogno di Scipione ("Scipio's Dream"), lionizing the new Archbishop. The impression it created must have been favorable, because Colloredo honored the previous Archbishop's pledge to appoint Wolfgang to the position of composer and concertmaster in his musical establishment. Mozart composed at a feverish pace during the months surrounding Colloredo's installation. In addition to Il sogno di Scipione, he wrote two Masses, various sacred works, four divertimentos (K. 131, 136-138), another opera (Lucio Silla), several songs, two church sonatas, eight symphonies and began six string quartets (K. 155-160) before he left on what proved to be his last Italian journey in October. The symphonies (K. 114, 124, 128-130 and 132-134) appeared in quick order during the early months of 1772. Mozart planned them for use at the frequent concerts and entertainments given in Salzburg, and their scoring may reflect the new Archbishop's taste for a small ensemble of flutes or oboes, horns and strings. In style, these Symphonies show Mozart at the earliest stages of wedding Italianate tunefulness and galanterie with the Austro-German orchestral and expressive devices that came to be seen increasingly in his works: the fully rounded forms, the inclusion of a minuet to expand the work from three to four movements, and certain rhythmic and orchestration techniques were all derived from practices developed in Mannheim and Vienna. These symphonies are important steps in Mozart's creative evolution — charming and beautiful in themselves while pointing clearly toward his the towering masterpieces of his later years.

The Symphony No. 20 was completed in Salzburg in July 1772. The opening movement, brilliant in sonority, festive in mood and more grandiloquently French than lyrically Italian in spirit, is in a nascent sonata form, lacking a true development section and reserving the initial gesture of the main theme (the arch shaped motive with trills heard in the strings immediately after the strong opening chords) until late in the recapitulation. The Andante is one of those achingly beautiful confections that only Mozart could have produced. Built from almost banal melodic and accompanimental components, it seems to rise on its translucent cloud of flute and muted string sonorities into some pure and perfect sphere that is the quintessence of Classicism. The Menuetto is a decidedly straight-forward affair, but the Trio contains some delicious suspensions — momentary dissonances that lend the music an invigorating piquancy and charm. The bounding finale is what was known in the 18th century as a Kerhaus, a "sweeping out," the final dance of the evening, and it is here used as a merry dash to the end.

Schoenberg Commissioned WorkAbout this Music

WORLD PREMIERE.

Adam Schoenberg, born in the western Massachusetts town of Northampton in 1980, grew up in a musical environment, improvising and playing piano from age three. Schoenberg received his baccalaureate in music composition from Oberlin (2002) and his master's degree (2005) and doctorate (2010) from Juilliard, where he was a C.V. Starr Doctoral Fellow; his teachers have included John Corigliano, Robert Beaser, Jeffrey Mumford, Lewis Nielson and George Tsontakis. Schoenberg has received awards and grants from ASCAP, Meet the Composer, International Brass Chamber Music Festival, Southern Arts Federation and Society for New Music, as well as the prestigious Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2006. He was a MacDowell Colony Fellow in 2009 and 2010, Guest Composer at the Aspen Music Festival and School in 2010 and 2011, and 2012 BMI Composer-in-Residence at the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University; he has also held residencies with the Kansas City Symphony, Fort Worth Symphony and Lexington Philharmonic. In 2012 Schoenberg became the first American classical composer to sign with Universal Music Publishing Classical Group and Ricordi London. A committed educator, Adam Schoenberg is on the faculty at UCLA, where he teaches composition and orchestration. He has also presented lectures and master classes at Juilliard, University of Missouri/Kansas City, Oberlin and other leading colleges and conservatories. His commissions include those from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, IRIS Orchestra, Northern Ohio Youth Orchestra, Sybarite Chamber Players, Blakemore Trio, Cleveland Orchestra trumpeter Jack Sutte, harpist Gretchen Van Hoesen of the Pittsburgh Symphony, Nick Tolle and the Consortium of Vibraphone Players, and New Juilliard Ensemble. An accomplished film composer, Schoenberg has scored two feature-length movies and several shorts.

Dvořák Symphony No. 7 in D minorAbout this Music

Composed in 1884-1885. Premiered on April 22, 1885 in London, conducted by the composer.

When Dvořák attended the premiere of the Third Symphony of his friend and mentor Johannes Brahms on December 2, 1883, he was already familiar with the work from a preview Brahms had given him at the piano shortly before. The effect on Dvořák of Brahms' magnificent creation, with its inexorable formal logic and its powerful shifting moods, was profound. Dvořák considered it, quite simply, the greatest symphony of the time, and it served as one of the two emotional seeds from which his D minor Symphony grew. The other, which followed less than two weeks after the first presentation of the Third Symphony, was the death of his mother.

Brahms not only encouraged Dvořák in his work, but also convinced his publisher, Simrock, to take on the music of the once little-known Czech composer. Dvořák always respected and was grateful to his benefactor, and when Brahms' Third Symphony appeared he looked upon it as a challenge presented to him to put forth a surpassing effort in his next work in the form. With Brahms' Symphony as the inspiration, and his grief at his mother's passing as the soul, the idea of a new symphony grew within him. He poured some of his sadness into the Piano Trio in F minor, Op. 65, composed early in 1884, but the spark that ignited the actual composition of the Seventh Symphony was not struck until the following summer. Dvořák had been garnering an international success with his music during the preceding years, and his popularity was especially strong in England. As one of the stops on his busy conducting tours through northern Europe, he visited Britain for the first time in the spring of 1884, and on June 13th he was elected an honorary member of the Philharmonic Society and simultaneously requested to provide a new symphony for that organization. It gave him the reason to put the gestating Symphony to paper. Following another English foray in the fall that was even more successful than the earlier one, he set to work on the Symphony in December.

With thoughts of his mother still fresh in his mind, and with the example of Brahms always before him ("It must be something respectable for I don't want to let Brahms down," he wrote to Simrock), Dvořák determined to compose a work that would solidify his international reputation and be worthy of those who inspired it. In his study of the composer's work, Otakar Šourek wrote, "Dvořák worked at the D minor Symphony with passionate concentration and in the conscious endeavor to create a work of noble proportions and content, which should surpass not only what he had so far produced in the field of symphonic composition, but which was also designed to occupy an important place in world music." On December 22nd, Dvořák wrote to his friend Antonín Rus, "I am now busy with the new Symphony (for London) and wherever I go I have no thought for anything but my work, which must be such as to move the world — well, God grant that it may be so!" He was so pleased with progress on the piece, even during the busy holiday season, that on New Year's Eve he told another friend, Alois Göbl, "I am again as happy and contented in my work as I have always been up to now and, God grant, I always shall be." The orchestration was undertaken during the winter, and the score finished in March, only a month before its premiere in London.

Dvořák reported to Simrock that the Symphony's introduction was "an exceptionally brilliant success." Its triumph caused the eminent conductor-pianist Hans von Bülow, who led the Symphony in its Berlin premiere in 1889, to say of Dvořák, "Next to Brahms, [he is] the most God-gifted composer of the present day." (Bülow also called him, with all due respect, "a genius who looks like a tinker.") After Dvořák made some revisions in the score — including the excision of forty measures from the slow movement — he presented it to Simrock for publication with the expectation of a good payment. Simrock, however, argued that Dvořák's large works did not sell well (he conveniently ignored the fact that the Slavonic Dances were making huge profits) and offered only half the requested amount. Dvořák replied that not only was the D minor Symphony the best such work he had ever written and certain to be in demand, but that he was also a father needing to support a family. As a final argument, the composer, whose first job had been as a butcher's apprentice in a peasant village, and who throughout his life followed the country practice of keeping pigeons, added, "I have a lot of expense with my garden and it doesn't exactly look as if there'll be a good potato crop this year." Dvořák got his full payment. It was the second of his symphonies to be published, and was usually known as "No. 2" until the 1960s, when the first five symphonies finally became widely available.

Dvořák's D minor Symphony has been regularly heard in the world's concert halls ever since it was new, and it is regarded by many as his finest achievement in the genre. Sir Donald Tovey's comment is representative: "I have no hesitation in setting Dvořák's Seventh Symphony along with the C major Symphony of Schubert and the four symphonies of Brahms as among the greatest and purest examples of this art-form since Beethoven." It has a gravity and austerity that are seldom encountered in the works of this composer, about whose music the great Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick once said, "In it, the sun always shines." Its texture and orchestration are often reminiscent of Brahms, but Dvořák's own distinctive personality is never suppressed, a difficult balance for him to attain during these years since he wanted to write music that would embody both the great German symphonic tradition and the unique characteristics of the Bohemian folk music that he held so dear. Though they are very different works, he succeeded remarkably well in each of his last three symphonies.

The Symphony begins with an ominous rumble deep in the basses reminiscent of both the introductory measures of Bruckner's symphonies and the beginning of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, another work in D minor and coincidentally also commissioned by the London Philharmonic Society. The haunting main theme is introduced by the violas and cellos, then echoed by the clarinets. Almost immediately, the possibilities for development built into the theme are explored, and the music rapidly grows in intensity until a climax is achieved when the main theme bursts forth in dark splendor from the full orchestra. The tension subsides to allow the flute and clarinet to present the lyrical second theme. The development, woven from the thematic components of the exposition, is compact and concentrated. The recapitulation is swept in on an enormous wave of sound that is capped by the re-entry of the timpani. The main theme is abandoned quickly, and the repeat of the flowing second theme is entrusted to two clarinets in a rich setting. The main theme returns, at times with considerable vehemence, to form the coda to this magnificent movement.

The second movement opens with a chorale of an almost otherworldly serenity that had been little portrayed in music since the late works of Beethoven. A complementary thematic idea with wide leaps of pathetic beauty is heard from the strings. The unusual form of the movement, part variations, part sonata, is perhaps best heard as the struggle between the beatific grace of the opening and the various states of musical and emotional tension that militate against it. It is likely that Dvořák intended this deeply expressive music as the heart of the Symphony, as a cathartic portrayal of the feelings that had troubled him since the death of his mother.

The Scherzo, the greatest dance movement among Dvořák's symphonies, is at once graceful and compelling, airy and forceful. Its bounding syncopations give it an irresistible vivacity set in a glowing, burnished orchestral sonority. Though the trio is more lyrical, it has an incessant rhythmic background in the strings that lends it an unsettled quality.
The finale, which continues the brooding mood of the preceding movements, is large in scale and assured in expression. Unlike many minor-mode symphonies of the 19th century, this one does not end in a blazing apotheosis of optimism, but, wrote Otakar Šourek, "rises to a glorious climax of manly, honorable and triumphant resolve." It is a moving climax to one of Dvořák's greatest creations.

Of Dvořák's Seventh Symphony, Otakar Sourek wrote, "The spirit of the great symphonist-architect emanates in full glory from the work as a whole, and from each movement, from each section and, indeed, from each bar, building up before us a composition of monumental proportions, unified in all its parts, bold in design, of material without flaw or fracture, a composition which is one of the greatest and most significant symphonic compositions since Beethoven."

ARTISTS
Project Trio flute, cello, bassAbout this Artist

Combining the virtuosity of world-class artists with the energy of rock stars, PROJECT Trio is breaking down traditional ideas of chamber music. The genre-defying Trio is acclaimed by the press as "packed with musicianship, joy and surprise" and "exciting a new generation of listeners about the joys of classical and jazz music."

Gramophone Magazine recently singled out the group as "an ensemble willing and able to touch on the gamut of musical bases ranging from Baroque to nu-Metal and taking in pretty much every stylism in between," while The Wall Street Journal hailed the Trio for their "wide appeal, subversive humor and first-rate playing." The New York Times has called beatboxing flutist Greg Pattillo "the best in the world at what he does."

The Trio was forged out of a collective desire to draw new and diverse audiences by performing high energy, top quality music. Using social media to broaden their reach beyond the concert stage and classroom, the Trio has its own YouTube channel, which has over 80 million views and 96,000 subscribers, making PROJECT Trio one of the most watched instrumental ensembles on the internet.

Highlights of the Trio's 2014-15 season include engagements with the Detroit, Dallas, St. Louis, and Charleston Symphonies, the Illinois Philharmonic, and season opening concerts with the Evansville Philharmonic and WCF Symphony. This season, the Trio will participate in residencies at Mercyhurst College and Concordia College,  as well as performing and leading masterclasses in schools, universities, festivals, and other venues throughout the Germany, Italy, and United States.

Recent performance highlights include appearances and collaborations with the Charlotte, San Diego, Toronto, Milwaukee, Saint Louis and New Jersey Symphonies, the Britt Festival, the Mainly Mozart Festival and the Chicago Sinfonietta. Their international tours have included concerts in France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Canada, Mexico, Australia and Hong Kong. In May 2013, the Trio completed a landmark tour of the former Soviet Union sponsored by the US Department of State.

PROJECT Trio was featured on NPR's Morning Edition and NPR Music's series, Heavy Rotation, where hosts around the country share a favorite new song. They selected Sweet Pea, from PROJECT's 2012 Random Roads Collection album, as "one of the best new tunes out there." In addition to TV and live radio appearances on such programs as Soundcheck on New York's WNYC, and Sirius XM among others, their music can be heard in Nike and Smart Car commercials. Greg Pattillo recently demonstrated his beatbox style for Jay Leno and performed with the Tonight Show orchestra.

PROJECT Trio's discography includes six recordings, four live EP's, and a DVD, PROJECT Trio: Live In Concert. All of these projects are self produced on the ensembles record label, Harmonyville Records. When Will Then Be Now and their catalog-spanning Random Roads Collection, debuted at the top of both the Billboard Canadian and US classical and jazz charts. Like all of the other PROJECT Trio's recordings, both soared to the top of the iTunes charts. Following up on the success of their first two CDs, Winter in June and Brooklyn, their third disc, Project Trio was acclaimed by Jazz Review as "a glorious celebration of the music of our time."

The members compose and arrange all of their own music, which they publish on their Harmonyville label. Their repertoire includes pieces for trio as well as several works with orchestra. With a goal to further expand the repertoire for their unique combination of flute, cello and bass, the Trio is collaborating with composer Adam Schoenberg on a concerto commissioning project for the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons and launched the annual PROJECT Trio Composition Competition, now in its second year.

The Trio is dedicated to arts education, teaching the art and joy of jamming on classical instruments and opening minds to what instruments can do. Engaging younger audiences, PROJECT Trio has performed and led workshops for over 300,000 students on four continents and is instantly recognizable to students of all ages as a result of their YouTube following and appearances on popular TV shows on Nickelodeon and MTV. With specialized curricula for age groups from elementary students through college, their educational programs are adapted to meet the National Standards for Music Education. Taking note of the group's success in building new audiences, Chamber Music America invited the members to make a presentation on successful audience engagement techniques for the 21st Century at the January 2014 CMA conference in New York City. In the summer, the group runs multiple camps focusing on composition, arranging, improvisation, and 21st century chamber music. The camps are annually held at the Britt Festival in Southern Oregon and New York City.

Based in Brooklyn, New York, Pattillo, Stephenson, and Seymour met at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where they were honored with the 2013 CIM Alumni Achievement Award. Founded in Boulder, Colorado in the summer of 2005, the Trio got its big break in 2006 when Greg Pattillo's Beatbox Flute video went viral on YouTube, receiving millions of views in its first week. PROJECT Trio has since become one of the world's most exciting instrumental ensembles.

Michael Stern conductorAbout this Artist

Michael Stern BioConductor Michael Stern is the Music Director of IRIS Orchestra in Germantown, Tennessee. Now in its second decade, IRIS has a unique model, drawing its musicians from the leading orchestras, universities and chamber groups around the country. IRIS has been unanimously heralded for the virtuosity of its playing; the depth and variety of its programming, with special emphasis on American contemporary music; and its acclaimed recordings on the Naxos and Arabesque labels. Under Stern’s direction, IRIS has commissioned and premiered works by William Bolcom, Chris Brubeck, Richard Danielpour, Stephen Hartke, Edgar Meyer, Jonathan Leshnoff, Ned Rorem, Huang Ruo, Adam Schoenberg, and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, among others.

The 2015-16 season also marks Stern's tenth as Music Director of the Kansas City Symphony, hailed for its remarkable artistic growth and development since his tenure began. Mr. Stern and the orchestra, joined by an amazing collection of guest artists, have performed to critical acclaim and sold-out audiences in their new world-class performance home, Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

The Kansas City Symphony’s second CD for award-winning audiophile label Reference Recordings, Britten’s Orchestra, won a 2011 Grammy award in the “Surround Sound Album” category, and producer David Frost won “Producer of the Year, Classical.” The Symphony and Mr. Stern have also recorded for the Naxos label. The Symphony’s concerts with internationally celebrated mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato were featured on the national PBS Summer Arts Series in July 2012.

Other positions include a tenure as the chief conductor of Germany’s Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra (the first American chief conductor in the orchestra’s history) and as Permanent Guest Conductor of the Orchestre National de Lyon in France, a position which he held for five years, and a stint as the Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestre National de Lille, France.

Michael Stern has led orchestras throughout Europe and Asia, including the London Symphony, London Philharmonic, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, Helsinki Philharmonic, Budapest Radio Symphony Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic, Moscow Philharmonic, National Symphony of Taiwan, Tokyo’s NHK Symphony and the Vienna Radio Symphony, among many others.

In North America, Mr. Stern has conducted the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Houston Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Toronto Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Montreal Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, and the National Symphony in Washington, D.C. He has also appeared regularly at the Aspen Music Festival.

Mr. Stern received his music degree from The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where his major teacher was the noted conductor and scholar Max Rudolf. Mr. Stern co-edited the third edition of Rudolf’s famous textbook, The Grammar of Conducting, and also edited a new volume of Rudolf’s collected writings and correspondence. He is a 1981 graduate of Harvard University, where he earned a degree in American history. He makes his home in Kansas City and in Connecticut with his wife, Shelly Cryer, and their two young daughters.

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FEATURED ARTIST

Jeremy Denk

 

Jonathan Biss

IRIS Orchestra
Michael Stern, conductor
Featuring: Jonathan Biss, piano

Date: Saturday, April 30, 2016 at 8:oopm
Sunday, May 1, 2016 at 2:00pm
Location: GPAC (Directions)


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This energetic program opens with Prokofiev's Symphony No.1, "Classical," a tongue-in-cheek homage to Haydn and Mozart that displays all the inventive gifts of one of the 20th century's greatest symphonists. The fascinating pianist, Jonathan Biss, brings his daring musical insight to bear with Beethoven's Piano concerto No. 2. To close our "Sweet Sixteen" season, we come back to Mendelssohn, whose Symphony No. 1 - completed before his 16th birthday - displays the full flower of his youthful genius...a brilliant ending to a brilliant season.

PROGRAM
Prokofiev Symphony No. 1, "Classical"About this Music

Composed in 1916-1917. Premiered on April 21, 1918 in Leningrad, conducted by the composer.

"In the field of instrumental music, I am well content with the forms already perfected. I want nothing better, nothing more flexible or more complete than sonata form, which contains everything necessary to my structural purpose." This statement, given to Olin Downes by Prokofiev during an interview in 1930 for The New York Times, seems a curious one for a composer who had gained a reputation as an ear-shattering iconoclast, the enfant terrible of 20th-century music, the master of modernity. While it is certainly true that some of his early works (Scythian Suite, Sarcasms, the first two Piano Concertos) raised the hackles of musical traditionalists, it is also true that Prokofiev sought to preserve that same tradition by extending its boundaries to encompass his own distinctive style. A glance through the list of his works shows a preponderance of established Classical forms: sonatas, symphonies, concertos, operas, ballets, quartets, overtures and suites account for most of his output. This is certainly not to say that he merely mimicked the music of earlier generations, but he did accept it as the conceptual framework within which he built his own compositions.

Prokofiev's penchant for using Classical musical idioms was instilled in him during the course of his thorough, excellent training: when he was a little tot, his mother played Beethoven sonatas to him while he sat under the piano; he studied with the greatest Russian musicians of the time — Glière, Rimsky-Korsakov, Liadov, Glazunov; he began composing at the Mozartian age of six. By the time he was 25, Prokofiev was composing prolifically, always brewing a variety of compositions simultaneously. The works of 1917, for example, represent widely divergent styles — The Gambler is a satirical opera; They Are Seven, a nearly atonal cantata; the Classical Symphony, a charming miniature. This last piece was a direct result of Prokofiev's study with Alexander Tcherepnin, a good and wise teacher who allowed the young composer to forge ahead in his own manner while making sure that he had a thorough understanding of the great musical works of the past. It was in 1916 that Prokofiev first had the idea for a symphony based on the Viennese models supplied by Tcherepnin, and at that time he sketched out a few themes for it. Most of the work, however, was done the following year, as Prokofiev recounted in his Autobiography:

"The idea occurred to me to compose an entire symphonic work without the piano. Composed in this fashion, the orchestral colors would, of necessity, be clearer and cleaner. Thus the plan of a symphony in Haydnesque style originated, since, as a result of my studies in Tcherepnin's classes, Haydn's technique had somehow become especially clear to me, and with such intimate understanding it was much easier to plunge into the dangerous flood without a piano. It seemed to me that, were he alive today, Haydn, while retaining his style of composition, would have appropriated something from the modern. Such a symphony I now wanted to compose: a symphony in the classic manner. As it began to take actual form I named it Classical Symphony." Prokofiev's Classical Symphony has been one of his most successful works ever since it was first heard, in Leningrad in April 1918.

The work is in the four movements customary in Haydn's symphonies, though at only fifteen minutes it hardly runs to half their typical length. The dapper first movement is a miniature sonata design that follows the traditional form but adds some quirks that would have given old Haydn himself a chuckle — the recapitulation, for example, begins in the "wrong" key (but soon rights itself), and occasionally a beat is left out, as though the music had stubbed its toe. The sleek main theme is followed by the enormous leaps, flashing grace notes and sparse texture of the second subject. A graceful, ethereal melody floating high in the violins is used to open and close the Larghetto, with the pizzicato gentle middle section reaching a brilliant tutti before quickly subsiding. The third movement, a Gavotte, comes not from the Viennese symphony but rather from the tradition of French Baroque ballet. The finale is the most brilliant movement of the Symphony, and calls for remarkable feats of agility and precise ensemble from the performers.

Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat majorAbout this Music

Composed in 1794-1795; revised in 1798 and 1800. Premiered on March 29, 1795 in Vienna, with the composer as soloist.

In November 1792, the 22-year-old Ludwig van Beethoven, full of talent and promise, arrived in Vienna. So undeniable was the genius he had already demonstrated in a sizeable amount of piano music, numerous chamber works, cantatas on the death of Emperor Joseph II and the accession of Leopold II, and the score for a ballet that the Elector of Bonn, his hometown, underwrote the trip to the Habsburg Imperial city, then the musical capital of Europe, to help further the young musician's career (and the Elector's prestige). Despite the Elector's patronage, however, Beethoven's professional ambitions consumed any thoughts of returning to the provincial city of his birth, and, when his alcoholic father died in December, he severed for good his ties with Bonn in favor of the stimulating artistic atmosphere of Vienna.

The occasion of Beethoven's first Viennese public appearance was a pair of concerts — "A Grand Musical Academy, with more than 150 participants," trumpeted the program in Italian and German — on March 29, 1795 at the Burgtheater whose proceeds were to benefit the Widows' Fund of the Artists' Society. It is likely that Antonio Salieri, Beethoven's teacher at the time, had a hand in arranging the affair, since the music of one Antonio Cordellieri, another of his pupils, shared the bill. Beethoven chose for the occasion a piano concerto in B-flat major he had been working on for several months, but which was still incomplete only days before the concert. In his reminiscences of the composer, Franz Wegeler recalled, "Not until the afternoon of the second day before the concert did he write the rondo, and then while suffering from a pretty severe colic which frequently afflicted him. I relieved him with simple remedies so far as I could. In the anteroom sat copyists to whom he handed sheet after sheet as soon as they were finished being written." The work was completed just in time for the performance. It proved to be a fine success ("he gained the unanimous applause of the audience," reported the Wiener Zeitung), and did much to further Beethoven's dual reputation as performer and composer. For a concert in Prague three years later, the Concerto was extensively revised, and it is this version that is known today. The original one has vanished.

Beethoven's Second Piano Concerto is a product of the Classical age, not just in date but also in technique, expression and attitude. Still to come were the heaven-storming sublimities of his later works, but he could no more know what form those still-to-be-written works would take than tell the future in any other way. A traditional device — one greatly favored by Mozart — is used to open the Concerto: a forceful fanfare motive immediately balanced by a suave lyrical phrase. These two melodic fragments are spun out at length to produce the orchestral introduction. The piano joins in for a brief transition to the re-presentation of the principal thematic motives, applying brilliant decorative filigree as the movement unfolds. The sweet second theme is sung by the orchestra alone, but the soloist quickly resumes playing to supply commentary on this new melody. An orchestral interlude leads to the development section, based largely on transformations of the principal theme's lyrical motive. The recapitulation proceeds apace, and includes an extended cadenza. (Beethoven composed cadenzas for his first four concertos between 1804 and 1809.) A brief orchestral thought ends the movement.

The touching second movement is less an exercise in rigorous, abstract form than a lengthy song of rich texture and operatic sentiment. The wonderfully inventive piano figurations surrounding the melody are ample reminder that Beethoven was one of the finest keyboard improvisers of his day, a master of embellishment and piano style.

The finale is a rondo based on a bounding theme announced immediately by the soloist. Even at that early stage in Beethoven's career, it is amazing how he was able to extend and manipulate this simple, folk-like tune with seemingly limitless creativity. Though his music was soon to explore unprecedented areas of expression and technique, this Concerto stands at the end of an era, paying its debt to the composer's great forebears and announcing in conventional terms the arrival of a musician who was soon to change forever the art of music.

Mendelssohn Symphony No. 1 in C minor,About this Music

Composed in 1824. Premiered on February 1, 1827 in Leipzig, conducted by Johann Philipp Christian Schulz.

By the time that Mendelssohn composed this "Symphony No. 1" in March 1824, he had already committed a dozen smaller sinfonias to paper, as well as operas and operettas, string quartets, concertos, motets, piano trios and a tidy number of fugues based on his study of Sebastian Bach's music. He was fifteen. His father, Abraham, one of Berlin's wealthiest bankers, displayed the boy's blossoming musical abilities at twice-monthly concerts in their estate's converted summerhouse, a splendid building large enough to seat several hundred people. Those Sunday matinees, performed by local professional musicians and complemented by an elegant luncheon, began in 1822, when Felix was thirteen. He selected the programs, led the rehearsals, appeared as piano soloist, and even conducted, though in those early years he was too short to be seen by the players in the back unless he stood on a stool. With sister Fanny participating as pianist, sister Rebecca as singer and brother Paul as cellist, it is little wonder that invitations to those happy gatherings were among the most eagerly sought and highly prized of any in Berlin society. The C minor Symphony was almost certainly played at the family's garden concerts soon after it was composed, but the work's earliest documented performance was given by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra (whose directorship Mendelssohn would assume in 1835) on February 1, 1827; Johann Philipp Christian Schulz conducted. Though Mendelssohn scored the work for the full complement of strings and winds of the Classical orchestra, he numbered the manuscript as "Sinfonie XIII" to indicate that it was preceded by his twelve sinfonias for strings alone. The events of the year 1829, however, caused him to stop regarding this piece as a youthful work, and recognize it instead as the first of his mature symphonies.

On March 11, 1829 in Berlin, Mendelssohn conducted the first modern performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion, providing the impetus for the Bach revival that was to have such a profound impact on 19th-century music. Still flush with triumph, he set out the following month for England, arriving in London in mid-April. Bankrolled by his father's substantial fortune and bearing powerful letters of introduction to the British aristocracy, Mendelssohn — elegant, witty, educated, handsome, well-mannered, almost fluent in English — made an immediate impression upon the cultural lions of London, especially since he observed the gentlemanly custom of not asking for a fee when he played in their salons. His public debut was set for May 25th in the Argyll Rooms in Regent Street at a concert of the Philharmonic Society, which had cemented its position in the city's artistic life seven years earlier by commissioning a symphony from no less a figure than Ludwig van Beethoven. (That work, the "Choral" Symphony was finally heard in London in 1825, a full year after its premiere in Vienna.) Mendelssohn chose the C minor Symphony as the vehicle of his introduction, replaced the original third movement with an orchestral arrangement of the Scherzo from his Octet, Op. 20 of 1825 ("I added some jolly D trumpets to it," he confessed. "It was very silly, but it sounded very nice."), and presented himself at the Argyll Rooms. He sent the following report home on the day after the premiere:

"When I came to my rehearsal, I found the whole orchestra assembled and about 200 guests, mostly ladies, many of them foreigners. I felt not precisely afraid, but very keyed-up and excited. I mounted the podium, and drew my little white baton from my pocket. I was introduced to all, greetings were exchanged. A few snickered, seeing a little fellow with a stick instead of the powdered and bewigged conductor to which they had become accustomed. [Mendelssohn was twenty.] Considering it was a first run-through of the Symphony, it went well and strong, and pleased them even in rehearsal. After every movement, the people present applauded and so did the orchestra (by tapping their bows against the instruments and stamping their feet). After the last movement, they made a great to-do. The directors [of the Society] came to me. I had to go down to the audience and bow my thanks left and right. I must have shaken 200 hands — it was one of my happiest moments. All those strangers became acquaintances and friends within a half hour.... The success of the concert last night was greater than I could have dreamed. J. Cramer [the noted pianist Johann Cramer, whose son, Franz, was the orchestra's concertmaster] led me to the piano [from where, according to the tradition of the day, he conducted the Symphony], and I was received with loud and long applause. They wanted the Adagio encored; I preferred to indicate my thanks and to go on, for fear of boring the audience. But after the Scherzo, the demand for repetition was so insistent that I had to play it again. At the end, they kept applauding as long as I kept thanking the orchestra, and I handsshakte till I left the hall."

Thus began the artistic love affair between Felix Mendelssohn and the musical cognoscenti of Britain. He further impressed his hosts by performing Weber's Konzertstück as piano soloist five days later from memory, an unusual feat in those days, and completely won them over by conducting his Midsummer Night's Dream Overture in June. He remained in Britain that summer to take a walking tour of Scotland, whose lore and countryside inspired him to write the Hebrides Overture and the "Scottish" Symphony, which he later declared to be his finest work in the form. The following November, he was elected an honorary member of the Philharmonic Society by unanimous vote; he dedicated the C minor Symphony to the organization upon its publication in 1834, when its appellation was formally changed to "No. 1." Soon after ascending the British throne in 1837, Victoria declared Mendelssohn the favorite composer of herself and her Prince Consort, and thereby enshrined him in the pantheon of public taste. After his spectacular debut season, Mendelssohn visited England nine more times during the remaining eighteen years of his too-brief life. "The people here like me for the sake of my music and respect me for it," he wrote to his friend the singer Eduard Devrient. "This delights me immensely."

The legendary cellist Pablo Casals called Mendelssohn "a Romantic who felt at ease in the world of Classicism," a quality amply demonstrated by the C minor Symphony. Though the work broaches the Beethovenian tonality of C minor (the key of the Fifth Symphony), its style, form and sonority pay their greatest allegiance to the music of Haydn and Mozart, especially Mozart's G minor Symphony, one of the few of his works which remained in the concert repertory throughout the 19th century. The opening Allegro begins with a stormy main theme whose energy is nicely sustained to lead to the contrasting material, a lyrical strain initiated by the woodwinds, before the bustling figurations return to close the exposition. The main theme serves as the principal subject of the development section. The movement is rounded out by a full recapitulation of the earlier subjects, and is brought to a conclusion with a determined coda grown from the main theme.

The Adagio, the most accomplished music in the Symphony, is based on a melody of sweet diatonic simplicity whose chromatically inflected accompaniment presages a favorite technique of Mendelssohn's later works. A central section of greater rhythmic and harmonic tension leads to a return of the principal theme decorated by the solo flute with tasteful scales and arpeggios. The following movement is a minuet in name only, since its character is closer to that of the powerful 19th-century symphonic scherzo of Beethoven than to the courtly dance of 18th-century Vienna. The trio is sustained and rather static harmonically, but it is concluded with a dramatic passage of timpani strokes (borrowed from the Beethoven Fifth Symphony) that serves as a direct link to the return of the scherzo. The finale, like the opening movement, is in sonata form: a main subject comprising strong dynamic contrasts; a complementary theme in soft pizzicato chords which serve as the accompanimental cushion for the legato melody of the clarinet; and a return of the opening gestures to close the exposition. A generous bit of fugue inhabits the center of the movement, while a vigorous coda in rousing C major ends the Symphony with a burst of youthful high spirits.

ARTISTS
Jonathan Biss pianoAbout this Artist

Jonathan Biss is a world-renowned pianist who extends his deep musical and intellectual curiosity from the keyboard to classical music lovers in the concert hall and beyond. In addition to his performance schedule, the 34-year old American has spent eight summers at the Marlboro Music Festival, and has written extensively for prestigious media outlets about his own relationships with the composers with whom he shares a stage. A member of the faculty of his alma mater, the Curtis Institute of Music, since 2010, Biss led the school's first massive open online course (MOOC) to a virtual classroom of 51,000 students last season.

This season, Biss will perform throughout the United States and Europe, including appearances with the Chicago, Danish National, BBC, Stuttgart Radio, and Finnish Radio symphony orchestras; the New York Philharmonic; the Philharmonia and Minnesota orchestras, and the Los Angeles and Netherlands chamber orchestras. Biss will tour Italy and the United States with Mark Padmore and perform with the Belcea Quartet at Wigmore Hall. He will also have recitals in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Houston, Denver, and at the Aldeburgh and Rheingau festivals and the International Piano Series in London. Additional performances include the UK premiere at the BBC Proms of the Bernard Rands piano concerto commissioned by Biss, Beethoven's Triple Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Riccardo Muti, and an appearance with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, playing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3.

Biss has embarked on a nine-year, nine-disc recording cycle of Beethoven's complete piano sonatas. The fourth volume will be released in January 2015. Biss's first Amazon Kindle Single, Beethoven's Shadow, was the first-ever Single written by a classical musician. It spent many weeks on the Kindle Singles bestseller list opposite works by major commercial fiction writers and was the number one music title in the Kindle Store for months. In 2013, Biss partnered with the Curtis Institute of Music and Coursera to offer a MOOC, Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas. The course will relaunch in January 2015 on Coursera in a new format, allowing students to watch all the video lessons at once or progress at their own pace. The second part of the course—on additional Beethoven sonatas—will launch in Spring 2015. 

Biss's Schumann: Under the Influence project was a 30-concert exploration of the composer's role in musical history. Biss and several hand-picked collaborators performed Schumann's work in juxtaposition with the music of Purcell, Beethoven, Schubert, Berg, Janacek, and Timo Andres. As part of the project, Biss recorded Schumann and Dvořák Piano Quintets with the Elias String Quartet and wrote an Amazon Kindle Single on Schumann, A Pianist Under the Influence.

Throughout his career, Biss has been an advocate for new music. Among the works he has commissioned are Lunaire Variations by David Ludwig, Interlude II by Leon Kirchner, Wonderer by Lewis Spratlan, Three Pieces for Piano and a concerto by Bernard Rands, which he premiered last season with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He has also premiered piano quintets by Timothy Andres and William Bolcom and is developing a commissioning project based on Beethoven's piano concerti.

Biss represents the third generation in a family of professional musicians that includes his grandmother Raya Garbousova, one of the first well-known female cellists (for whom Samuel Barber composed his Cello Concerto), and his parents, violinist Miriam Fried and violist/violinist Paul Biss. Growing up surrounded by music, Biss began his piano studies at age six, and his first musical collaborations were with his mother and father. He studied at Indiana University with Evelyne Brancart and at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia with Leon Fleisher. At age 20, Biss made his New York recital debut at the 92nd Street Y's Tisch Center for the Arts and his New York Philharmonic debut under Kurt Masur.

Biss has been recognized with numerous honors, including the Leonard Bernstein Award presented at the 2005 Schleswig-Holstein Festival, Wolf Trap's Shouse Debut Artist Award, the Andrew Wolf Memorial Chamber Music Award, Lincoln Center's Martin E. Segal Award, an Avery Fisher Career Grant, the 2003 Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award, and the 2002 Gilmore Young Artist Award. He was an artist-in-residence on American Public Media's Performance Today and was the first American chosen to participate in the BBC's New Generation Artist program. For more information about Jonathan Biss, please visit www.jonathanbiss.com.

 

Michael Stern conductorAbout this Artist

Michael Stern BioConductor Michael Stern is the Music Director of IRIS Orchestra in Germantown, Tennessee. Now in its second decade, IRIS has a unique model, drawing its musicians from the leading orchestras, universities and chamber groups around the country. IRIS has been unanimously heralded for the virtuosity of its playing; the depth and variety of its programming, with special emphasis on American contemporary music; and its acclaimed recordings on the Naxos and Arabesque labels. Under Stern’s direction, IRIS has commissioned and premiered works by William Bolcom, Chris Brubeck, Richard Danielpour, Stephen Hartke, Edgar Meyer, Jonathan Leshnoff, Ned Rorem, Huang Ruo, Adam Schoenberg, and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, among others.

The 2015-16 season also marks Stern's tenth as Music Director of the Kansas City Symphony, hailed for its remarkable artistic growth and development since his tenure began. Mr. Stern and the orchestra, joined by an amazing collection of guest artists, have performed to critical acclaim and sold-out audiences in their new world-class performance home, Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

The Kansas City Symphony’s second CD for award-winning audiophile label Reference Recordings, Britten’s Orchestra, won a 2011 Grammy award in the “Surround Sound Album” category, and producer David Frost won “Producer of the Year, Classical.” The Symphony and Mr. Stern have also recorded for the Naxos label. The Symphony’s concerts with internationally celebrated mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato were featured on the national PBS Summer Arts Series in July 2012.

Other positions include a tenure as the chief conductor of Germany’s Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra (the first American chief conductor in the orchestra’s history) and as Permanent Guest Conductor of the Orchestre National de Lyon in France, a position which he held for five years, and a stint as the Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestre National de Lille, France.

Michael Stern has led orchestras throughout Europe and Asia, including the London Symphony, London Philharmonic, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, Helsinki Philharmonic, Budapest Radio Symphony Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic, Moscow Philharmonic, National Symphony of Taiwan, Tokyo’s NHK Symphony and the Vienna Radio Symphony, among many others.

In North America, Mr. Stern has conducted the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Houston Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Toronto Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Montreal Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, and the National Symphony in Washington, D.C. He has also appeared regularly at the Aspen Music Festival.

Mr. Stern received his music degree from The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where his major teacher was the noted conductor and scholar Max Rudolf. Mr. Stern co-edited the third edition of Rudolf’s famous textbook, The Grammar of Conducting, and also edited a new volume of Rudolf’s collected writings and correspondence. He is a 1981 graduate of Harvard University, where he earned a degree in American history. He makes his home in Kansas City and in Connecticut with his wife, Shelly Cryer, and their two young daughters.

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